|Your Deck of Ancient Symbols Card for Today
A much revered swami said “Simplicity is the nature of great souls.” There is a natural sense of art and genius in Simplicity. Keeping things simple produces solutions that are not only efficient but work well and are easy to maintain and build upon. Whether it takes a physical form or is an idea simple constructs please our aesthetic self. Simplicity is soothing, because you don’t have to fight your way through layers of complexity to see and understand the end result.
As a daily card, Simplicity indicates a time when you will do well by looking for simple solutions, and avoiding that which cannot be easily understood or implemented. In short, if a plan can’t get you form point A to point B without any side trips, then it is the wrong plan. Look for answers that you see immediately, that sets the proverbial light of in your head and makes you exclaim Eureka!
The Hedge Witch’s Home (Or A Guide to Practical Paganism)
For most of us Pagans, the altar can be seen as a spiritual or peaceful refuge in our own special corner away from the mundane and away from the rest of the world. For others of us, we may prefer to meditate and still others would like nothing more than a peaceful walk in a forest. But our homes can be places of spiritual refuge as well, from the front door to the bedroom at the furthest end of the house. In fact, the home should be a refuge, a Pagan one. It goes without saying that most of us want to feel Pagan and live Pagan but for some of us this can be difficult.
Some of us live in must urban settings or very small dwellings with little room. Maybe you’re renting an apartment with strict rules such as no holes in the walls. But it’s anything but hopeless. We can “Pagan” up our houses in the simplest of ways. It is possible even if we live in tiny, cramped apartments or dorm rooms where lighting candles and incense isn’t practical and is prohibited by post-secondary institutions.
Kitchen Witches make much use of their kitchens. Their altars are their counters and their ritual tools are the big wooden spoons and saucepans by the stove. Green Witches have their gardens and hedge witches have the tinted jars of sundry herbs lined upon the shelves.
There are a few simple steps a Pagan can take to make their home really their home. Setting up a modest altar in a preferred room is one way, perhaps with a smudge stick or perhaps with images of ancestors lining the edges. This is really very simple, a nicely framed picture of Grandma and Grandpa on a side table will most surely do! My altar has a calendar set up neatly on the left side. You can decorate your altar according to your path’s holidays and decorate your house with seasonal sprigs or seasonal emblems.
One can also make use of many readily available herbs to feel close to nature such as creating sachets, herbal rinses, soaps, incenses, teas or any variety of delicious culinary dishes. I have only a few words of advice and those are: DO NOT OVERPICK. And be sure to pick ethically as many plants are endangered or becoming endangered just as animals do. And do not pick anything out in the wild without thoroughly making sure you know what it is and use it to the best of its abilities If you can’t be sure, leave it or consult someone who knows. That being said, the practical Pagan may want to get rosehips from the roses in his garden and they appear when the blooms die for any number of practical purposes from teas to desserts.
These and many other herbs can also be found at a local loose-leaf teashop, or if you’re lucky enough, your local herb shop or Pagan shop. There are many practical ways to utilize these small charms as well. A kitchen Witch might go to the supermarket and buy some thyme or ginger to cook with and saturate it with his or her witchy knack for cooking. If you live in the city, and want to feel more “naturey”, set up a windowsill spice garden and be sure to get a few potted plants.
When friends come over, the hedge Witch can brew a mean tea from those same rosehips, which are high in vitamin C and thus helpful with colds. If you’re looking for a sleeping potion and warm milk just isn’t doing the trick, try some chamomile. As a mild sedative, it does wonders to help you, or your active children get to sleep.
To make your home feel like being home and feel more Pagan, you could tie an herb sachet by the bathtub and the scent will be released with the steam. You could collect your favorite Pagan authors and place them on a bookshelf in the living room. You could keep a diary, dream journal or recipe book by your bed stand.
For the more spiritual, you could buy a nice broom and decorate it to your tastes and use cleaning the home as a ritual or if you’re Heathen, place a blÃ³t horn or ancestor image on the mantel. Mine is only big enough for a single shot so if you’re space is cramped you can still aim small. You do not have to feel like you are trapped in a cramped, mundane and utterly unPagan apartment.
You can imbue almost anything with a spiritual significance. Even if you are a teenager in a strict nonPagan home you can try your hand at cooking or placing a broom in your room to clean with and of course you can buy little figurines for your bedroom that have special significance to you.
Last but not least, you could try your creative hand and add a very personal element. If you can write, write a prayer for your bedroom wall. If you can paint, paint an image of your patron God. If you can carve, carve an image of your totem. If you can work with wood, well, you get the idea.
It is very easy to be the Practical Pagan without cheapening the experience or overdoing it dramatically. After all, no one really need a big witch hat and a cast iron cauldron sitting dead centre in the front foyer for all to see to have a Pagan home and neither do you need to set up a mini Stonehenge in the backyard (a small altar by a tree or birdfeeder may do just fine) .
If space is an issue, aim small. If disapproving eyes are an issue, aim for subtle and above all, aim for modest and something which will complement your personality!
Make your home really feel like yours and let it be inspired by your Pagan path.
Happy (Pagan) interior decorating!
Life is Love: The Power of Happiness
I am faced, every day, with an interesting prospect. Whether or not it’s right or wrong to even have the thought, I awake every morning to the idea that I am not going to die today. And every day, there is a little more certainty to my voice when I say it out loud.
It isn’t a medical condition that forces me to think positively, it’s just the ghosts of things passed. Ages ago, I would have called it “depression.” Now, though, I call it “achievement.” I am still facing my demons, I am still terrified of certain situations, and I am still battling to reach some level of normal human behavior. But through it all I’m still fighting, and I’m still winning. And, right at the heart of it all, there’s a little star with a circle around it.
Years ago when I was still a different person, a lot of things happened that forced me into a near catatonic state. I was completely mute, and so shy that looking at a person’s eyes made me shake. And it was around this time that I was introduced to Paganism. How wonderful it was to retreat into meditation, or watch incense smoke for hours; I wasn’t really ‘into’ it, but the practice of it made me peaceful. I started to enjoy the company of other people, holding circles in small groups and learning to trust what we called our “mini coven.” I was coming out of my shell, slowly.
It wasn’t until later that the full force of what Paganism meant to me practically hit me in the face. I was sitting on a public bus, coming home from school, when some impish need to giggle came over me. And I started to laugh, first into my hand, then into my fist, and then I didn’t bother to smuggle it anymore.
I was laughing, hard, tears streaming down my face. Because here I was, sitting on a bus, and for no particular reason I had just realized that I was absolutely, undeniably, contentedly happy. I had no more reason to worry. Everything I was afraid of was over; I was meeting people, I was doing well, I was still alive. I had conquered something.
So here I was, I thought, sitting on a bus, and I could feel my life force crackling merrily like fire in a chimney. All the energy, all that essence we’d been trying to put into our magick, it existed. And here it was, bubbling out of me, overflowing me, and filling me with something wonderful.
By the next year, I had formally decided to become Wiccan. Although I couldn’t really practice anything with my parents around, I decided I could at least honor the principals. I started to absorb the wisdom of the Lord and Lady, as well as be mindful to everyone and everything around me.
Now, I’m on my own for the first time, living in a tiny dorm room in the middle of an unfamiliar big city. I am, for the most part, your typical university student. I get good grades, do my laundry, and have the occasional childish snowball fight with a group of friends that I cherish more dearly than they can imagine.
My room reflects that, for the most part; there’s doodles taped to my wall, big name tags stuck to my door, fluttering pages of homework littering my desk, and walls of textbooks along every shelf. Yet, in the corner and clearly visible to anyone who comes in, there is a white cloth that proudly supports a silver and gold candle, a bowl of water, a dish of salt, and a small cauldron. Next to the textbooks on the shelves is a binder I use as my Book of Shadows.
My room is my sanctuary, filled with little bits of me; here there is an altar, sitting right next to a Starbucks mocha frappuccino. While other students go to church, I practice my faith right in this room, every night.
These students sometimes ask me why. Why am I a Wiccan? They aren’t offensive in any way, they just want to know. My answer is always the same: because I owe it to myself. I spent so many years as a frightened person, terrified of my own voice.
My involvement with Wicca helped me get my voice back; in the end, the biggest thing I learned from practicing Wicca was that the only thing that could save me from myself was myself. It gave me power; not magickal power, but pure life force, something raw and untamable that felt like a physical fire in me. My soul was set aflame, and as a phoenix is reborn from the ashes, so I came to be an entirely new person.
I am a joker now. I wear my inner child on my sleeve. I am cynical and sarcastic, but also full of joy. And that is the key: Wicca taught me boundless joy, that even the darker side of life must be celebrated, because without shadows then light has no context. I’ve finally realized that life is beautiful. I don’t need to hold elaborate rituals to see that.
Spring to summer, autumn to winter. The changing of seasons is a huge concept; so much mythology and meaning behind it. And all of it is contained in the life and death of a single leaf.
The Lord and Lady. The basic grounds on which Wicca is based. Their entire dance re-enacted every night by the simple rise and set of the sun and moon.
Untamable love, burning passions and innocence lost. It happens every day between two squirrels in the tree outside my window.
Everything is simple. The biggest of ideas can be reflected in the smallest drop of water. And that’s what amazes me, that’s why I’m so in love with Wicca. It can go both ways; perhaps the smallest drop of water teaches some amazing concept, or perhaps the droplet itself is too complex for me to ever understand.
In any case, here I am. This is me. And for the first time, I’m in love with this Earth. So when I have my daily ritual of waking up, splashing myself with water and reminding myself that I’m whole and wonderful and full of life, I’m determined. I want other people to see me, want them to know what it feels like for someone so sad to become someone so happy. It’s been a long journey from point A to point B. I’m still travelling. But if I put a hand to my chest and close my eyes, I can hear how far I’ve come, because I feel the proof that I am still fully alive.
My entire journey thus far repeats itself in song with every beat of my heart.